Police Chief Ed Garone has presented his 41st budget to the Derry Town Council.
The original working budget for the Derry Police Department was $9,159,818, an increase of $615,506 over 2013’s $8,544,312. During the Thursday, April 18 budget meeting, $50,000 was trimmed from the overtime budget and $18,000 from the capital request for a new HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system for the downstairs.
Garone prefaced the budget discussion by saying he had adhered to the guidelines, and included no new positions or programs. It is difficult to plan for needed improvements on such a tight budget, he said, adding, “We want to be progressive, proactive, preventative.”
Garone’s staff has been trimmed from a “high” of 60 sworn officers to 56, and a total staff from 74 full time and three part time to 71 full time and three part time.
He has 1.69 sworn officers for every 1,000 Derry residents, he said. Garone saved money this budget cycle by seeing a decrease in operations and maintenance and by reassigning his network administrator to the town’s Information Technology (IT) department. He has seen a 3.6 percent increase in the personnel line, due mostly to the New Hampshire Retirement System, he said. That amount is up 27 percent, or $258,532. Health insurance is up 2.1 percent or $63,133.
Garone had three capital requests in this budget: updating security at $70,000, building a freestanding evidence storage unit at $32,200, and replacing the oldest HVAC unit, $18,000. But the unit failed before the new budget was voted on, Garone said, so he had to replace the HVAC unit out of 2013 funds, and the new budget will drop by $18,000.
Time and a half? Some Councilors questioned the projected overtime expenses. Overtime was budgeted for $770,969 in 2013 but came in at $614,000, and is projected for $795,575 for 2014. “That’s a pretty hefty increase,” Chairman Michael Fairbanks said.
Garone said about $184,000 of that amount is expected to be “details,” where police are hired by a business or utility to provide traffic control and security. He said about $611,000 of the projected amount was in-house overtime. Councilor Tom Cardon asked if, based on the fact that the overtime had come in lower this year, the department could manage if $50,000 were cut from the OT budget. “Of course we can – but there is a cost,” Garone said. Capt.
Vern Thomas, supervisor of operations, said in addition to “details,” overtime was used to cover for officers when they went for their monthly training sessions; to cover for special operations unit training; to cover extra personnel in an emergency or natural disaster; when an arrest is made near the end of a shift, and the officer has to stay beyond their shift to finish the processing; and to “backfill” shifts when an officer is ill or on vacation.
“Can we reduce it? Probably – but this number is where we think it should be,” Thomas said. “Is that an outrageous request?” Councilor Mark Osborne asked. Garone responded, “The problem we face is, we don’t know what’s going to happen over the next year.” He added, “We can do it, but it will drastically affect the service you will get. It’s not a risk I’m willing to take.”
The Council voted 4-2 to cut $50,000 from the overtime budget. Councilors Neil Wetherbee and Brad Benson were the dissenting votes. Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores was absent. “This is a discussion,” Osborne said, “that we are going to have with every department.” The bottom line The budget was reduced by the $50,000, the $18,000 for the HVAC unit, and by $10,000 in the debt service line due to a change in the trade-in value of cruisers. The capital projects line, including the HVAC, security system and evidence storage, was flagged for further discussion.
The working bottom-line budget is $9,081,818 and was approved by the Council 4-2.
Other department budgets discussed April 18 included:
• Animal Control, 2013, $8,249, vs. 2014, $8,117, passed by the Council without alteration;
• Town Clerk/Elections, 2013, $66,330, vs. 2014, $39,022, reduced by $2,000 due to the cost of a voting machine that has already been acquired; and
• Information Technology, 2013, $593,571, vs. 2014, $643,912, passed as written.
The Health and Administration budgets were not presented due to lack of time.